Park Seo-Bo - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • “What I’ve realised over the years is that I must empty myself to soak up elements that I need, and to make myself more whole. And in order to empty myself, I must perform repetitive actions. It’s something I realised after countless discussions with the Buddhist nun […].”
    — Park Seo-Bo
    With the restrained, meticulously choreographed lines on the backdrop, the present lot Écriture 67-78-79 is one of Park Seo-Bo’s magnificent works from his signature Écriture series. Park Seo-Bo, born in Yechon, South Korea in 1931, is a master whose work reflects the Korean spirit and its aesthetics in the post-war era. His early life was affected by the devastations of conflict, which heavily influenced his artistic practice over the years. He emerged as a central figure in the Dansaekhwa (monochrome painting) movement, pioneering Korean abstract art and sought to repair and redefine cultural identity in the post-war, post-colonial era. Widely recognised for the linkage of his art with Korean heritage while also engaging with broader international philosophical and artistic discourses, his works, particularly his Écriture series, continue to be highly celebrated for the meditative nature and innovative approach to the traditional East Asian aesthetics.




    Dansaekhwa, the Korean monochrome painting movement which emerged in the 1970s, represents a critical moment in the history of contemporary Korean art. It marked a period of cultural introspection and resurgence in post-war era and the resulting need to rebuild national identity in the aftermath of colonialism. Representational Dansaekhwa artists such as Park Seo-Bo pursued a visual language that attempted to embody the traditional Korean spirit. Additionally, this movement eschewed the narratives of Western post-war art, focusing instead on meditative practices, materiality, and constant repetition. This movement was characterised by its embrace of minimalistic and distinctive use of colours, in particular white, which symbolises pureness and a blank canvas for cultural re-imagination.


    The significance of Dansaekhwa in the global art scene is also crucial. It shared formal similarities with the Western minimalist movement, but it was rooted in a distinctly East Asian experience and philosophical foundation. It representes a synthesis of the past and present, where Park included elements from his cultural heritage, such as the meditative nature of calligraphy and the importance of repetition, into his avant-garde practices.



    Park Seo-Bo’s Ecriture Series: a Form of Self-Cultivation

     “In contrast to Western artists, painting for me is a tool for self-cultivation and self-discipline. The traces, or remnants, of this action result in a painting. In this context, Ecriture signifies an endless repetition. The materiality or physicality that rises out of repetitive action—the ridges and furrows formed in the paintings after the hanji and paint are continuously pressed together—must be spiritualised. Only then does one understand Écriture.”
    — Park Seo-Bo
    Park Seo-Bo’s philosophical journey and artistic evolution are encapsulated in the Écriture series, a signature body of work that serves as a spiritual compass guiding us through his meditative practice as well as the essence of the Dansaekhwa movement. Since the mid-1960s, Park Seo-Bo embarked on a transformative exploration after delving into the ancient philosophies of Chinese masters Laozi and Zhuang Zhou. This intellectual pivot fortified the philosophical foundation of his art, also marking a departure from his earlier Primordialis series to a practice characterised by a calmer, more repetitive rigour such as the present lot.


    Écriture’, meaning 'writing' in French, integrates the act of painting with calligraphy, a practice rooted in East Asian tradition. Park uses a pencil to create patterns on white canvases, forming a rhythmic interaction of fine lines reminiscent of calligraphic strokes. This repetitive process is a manifestation of Park's philosophical shift towards deconstructing the self and embracing non-purposefulness for the liberation of self and mind. The works become a record of the artist's physical and mental engagement rather than an expression of subjective imagery. Park's approach, drawing upon the meditative repetition and material specificity of Korean art, stands in contrast to Western Minimalism's logic and rationality.


    Park Seo-Bo, Écriture series, exhibited at Johyun Gallery at Art Basel 2024
    Image/Artwork: Courtesy of the artist and Johyun Gallery



    Erasure and Creation

    Park Seo-Bo’s art can be viewed as both an erasure and a creation, because the act of painting also becomes a means of wiping away in order to achieve a purer form of expression. His meticulous lines on the canvas echo the disciplined practice of East Asian calligraphy, but he transcends the copying of words into an act of capturing the essence of being and harmony. As a result, the present lot serves as a typical exploration of self, culture and East Asian philosophy.


    Park’s Ecriture series, particularly the masterly Ecriture 67-78-79, stands as one of the best examples to a pivotal moment in the artist’s career, showcasing the disciplined calligraphic practice and the ritualistic repetition that defines the Dansaekhwa movement. His work during this era exemplifies the movement’s core principles—neutrality, spiritual transcendence, and the search for a new Korean aesthetic.


    In the studio with Park Seo Bo, video courtesy of Art Drunk



    Collector’s Digest


    Notably, Park Seo-Bo represented Korea at the 3rd Paris Biennale in 1963 and the 8th and 13th São Paulo Biennales in 1965 and 1975. He has also exhibited on a global scale, at prominent institutions including, Korea: The Trend for the past 20 Years of Contemporary Arts at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul in 1978; Working with Nature - Traditional Thought in Contemporary Art from Korea at Tate Gallery Liverpool in 1992; and Transcendence: Modernity and Beyond in Korean Art at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore. Moreover, his works are widely recognised and included in numerous significant collections, including the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Abu Dhabi; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; M+, Hong Kong; and The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.



    Significantly, the artist has had many solo exhibitions in recent years. In 2016, White Cube Mason's Yard London held his solo exhibition Ecriture: 1967-1981 in which the present lot is featured. In 2019, Galerie Perrotin Paris held his solo show, Ecriture, featuring works from the artists seminal series, having previously been shown around the world in New York, Hong Kong and Daejeon. In 2021, White Cube held an impressive solo exhibition for the artist at their Bermondsey, London space. Most recently, White Cube Palm Beach held a solo exhibition Park Seo-Bo from February to April 2023. During Art Basel Hong Kong 2024, Johyun Gallery presented a recent series of paintings by the artist, which showcased the remarkable physicality, rhythm and technique that has come to define his oeuvre.




    • Provenance

      White Cube, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Seoul, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Park Seo-Bo Retrospective, 25 October - 24 November 1991
      Seoul, Gallery Hyundai, Park Seo-Bo Ecriture: 1967-2001, 20 March - 7 April 2002
      London, White Cube, Ecriture: 1967-1981, 15 January-12 March 2016


Écriture No. 67-78-79

signed, titled, and dated 'PARK SEO-BO "Écriture No. 67-78-79" 1978-1979 [in Hanja and English]; further inscribed 'Seoul, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Park Seo-Bo Retrospective, 25 October - 24 November 1991; Seoul, Gallery Hyundai, Park Seo-Bo Écriture: 1967-2001, 20 March - 7 April 2002; London, White Cube, Écriture: 1967-1981, 15 January-12 March 2016' [in Hanja] on the reverse.
pencil and oil on canvas
130 x 162.5 cm. (51 1/8 x 63 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1979.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,500,000 - 5,500,000 

Sold for HK$4,191,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024